Grafting adds value to crops under cover
VANCOUVER, Wash. -- Working hand-in-glove with high-tunnel agriculture is the practice of grafting, a centuries-old technique that improves production, reduces disease and increases plant vigor.
Vegetable specialist Carol Miles has worked with grafting at WSU's Northwestern Washington Research and Extension Center in Mount Vernon. She focused a recent discussion on tomatoes and eggplants, both of them popular high-tunnel crops.
Growers can grow their own rootstock and scion material, and they can do the grafting themselves, she said, saving money and adapting the combinations to their own needs.
"Compare the increased yields with increased costs in labor, a healing chamber, plant material and greenhouse space," she said. "This is not rocket science."
Miles has prepared fact sheets -- available at http://pubs.wsu.edu (enter "vegetable grafting") -- that describe in detail different grafting techniques, transplanting and field maintenance. Related Powerpoint presentations are also available on her website: http://vegetables.wsu.edu/
Deciding which technique to use depends on the number of plants, their size, the feasibility of using special clips and personal preferences.
Hardy rootstocks are a great tool to use against soilborne diseases like verticillium wilt and fusarium wilt.
"When you're growing heirloom tomatoes, you want to protect them," she said. "And a vigorous rootstock takes up lots of nourishment."
However, she said, for growers who don't have problems with disease and already get sufficient production, "If you don't have a problem that grafting addresses, why graft?"
-- Steve Brown